On Friday morning John and I walked out of the school gates. Both of us together, and for the first time entirely without any of our children. It’s been a milestone kind of a week.
If the kids were in a mainstream school then this week would have marked Elma’s start in Reception, while Kitty would have gone into year 2. As it was, my littlest miss was the only one of the three for whom absolutely nothing had changed. She moved up from Nursery to Kindergarten at the start of last term, and will stay there until she is six and ready to join the lower school. She’ll spend more days there now because it is equivalent to school not pre-school, but for her Friday morning was about things getting back to normal. She was so excited to see her teacher again that she snuck off for a quick hug the day before when we took Kitty in, and when she finally got to go to her classroom and stay there, she barely remembered to say bye to us, and we couldn’t ask for more.
It was a good omen for Pip, who has really truly started nursery. Just for three mornings a week, but that’s three mornings more than he’s ever spent away from us on a regular basis. We weren’t really sure how it was going to go with Pip; half the time he’s incredibly confident and barrels into things without a worry, and the rest he’s still my snuggly little baby, wanting to make sure that I stay put and give him cuddles, and then stay there some more so he can play and still come back for a hug whenever he likes it. We took the precaution of having him drop off both of his sisters before he went in, to just reinforce the message that this was a good thing, and then we put his coat and bad in his locker, his shoes and wellies in the shoe locker, and it was time. His nursery teacher has known him since he was 9 months old when he and Elma first went to parent and toddler group, and she came and took him by the hand and asked if he wanted to go and find some toys, and that was that. As soon as the door shut we scooted off down the passage, not wanting him to catch sight of us the next time it opened, and confident that if he got upset he had two sisters and his parent and toddler group teacher on hand for cuddles.
Apparently he had one slightly wobbly moment but was entirely diverted by going out in the garden and getting properly muddy. Elma, playing in the big garden at the same time, told me she heard him shout “I’ve got a soggy bottom!” with great delight as he came down the slide, so all was clearly well there.
And for Kitty, this was the big jump, the move from the early years into Class 1, and the start (or in her case, re-start) of formal education. Last year when we brought her for her first day she was shy, a bit scared, and holding onto her courage with both hands. This year she couldn’t wait to get there. She’s been so excited about Class 1 I think she started counting down from a good two weeks out, and she wasn’t the only one. All the way through the school grounds she was calling out to someone, or they were calling to her, and she just couldn’t get up to her classroom fast enough.
The school does milestones with a degree of ceremony, and so we went from her classroom to the school hall to watch the other classes file in and get ready to welcome their new Class 1. We heard them singing before we saw them, brought to the hall by their kindergarten teachers and their new class teacher, all wearing golden paper crowns and I’ll admit, when they first walked in, and I saw Kitty looking both so little compared to the older children, and yet so very grown up and very ready for this, the lump in my throat may have pushed out a tear or two (and I know I wasn’t the only parent who felt the same).
They were told the story of the little golden acorn, and then it was time for each of them to walk through an arch of flowers and leaves to be formally welcomed to Class 1, and to be given a gold painted clay acorn from one of the current Class 9 pupils; a gift from oldest to youngest to pass the baton on.
I know I go on about how wonderful it is to see her happy at school, but I promise you, when you’ve had a child who is seriously deeply miserable in their education you get to a point where you feel as if they may never be happy at school again, as if such a thing is entirely impossible, and to see her not sucking her thumb and hunching her shoulders, but confident and smiling, and at home, will never get old for me.
And so they start the next chapter, and so do we. It had more practical impact on John (who went to the gym), but it is another marker that we’ve stepped out of the baby days, and more adventures await. Now all we have to do is remember to get organised for tomorrow.
PS – in case you were wondering about the unusual photo props – Kitty was asked to collect a stick big enough to be a walking stick and a stone that she liked and bring them to class on her first day – both came from our garden; the stick was a bough cut from a laurel at the very end of the garden because we couldn’t find a stick lying on the ground that was long enough or sturdy enough – such are the perils of being tall!